The further tax cuts Bush proposed last week will only deepen that hole. Because the operating side of the federal budget is already deeply in deficit, every penny of Bush's new tax cut would have to come from taxes raised for Social Security or by increasing the national debt. The Democratic staff on the Senate Budget Committee has estimated that if the new Bush tax cut plan passes, as well as the prescription drug plan for senior citizens he has endorsed, the national debt will balloon to $4.8 trillion in 2008.
More debt means higher interest costs for the government, which means higher taxes on future generations. It all amounts to Americans voting themselves a tax cut and letting their children pay for defending the country through a larger national debt. Surely Woodrow Wilson better captured the nation's spirit when he said, as the bullets flew in World War I, that Americans "know ... the war must be paid for and that it is they who must pay for it, and if the burden is justly distributed ... they will carry it cheerfully and with a sort of solemn pride."
Ronald Brownstein's column appears every Monday. See current and past Brownstein columns on The Times' Web site at: www.latimes.com/brownstein.